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Politics & Government

Taxes, Regional Cooperation are Issues in Waukesha County Executive Race

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State Sen. Paul Farrow (left) faces Waukesha County Supervisor Tom Schellinger in the race for Waukesha county executive.

Tuesday is Election Day in Wisconsin. In Waukesha, voters will pick a new county executive. Dan Vrakas is retiring, after serving for ten years.

We met with the two candidates vying to succeed him. They are Republican state Sen. Paul Farrow and Waukesha County Board Supervisor Tom Schellinger.

Perhaps the candidate with the better name recognition is Paul Farrow. His mother is former state Senator and Lt. Governor Margaret Farrow. And his yard signs just dotted the landscape in Waukesha County last fall, when he successfully ran for state Senate.

Farrow believes the top issue facing the area is economic development.

“How can we get more businesses here? And, that’s why I decided it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and wanted to take a try,” Farrow says.

Farrow says his other priorities, if elected, would be tackling opiate addiction and keeping taxes low. In addition, he says he’d pursue more regional collaboration. For example, in transportation. Farrow promises to work with Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele on expanding bus routes between the two counties.

“The majority of people who work in Milwaukee come from Waukesha and vice versa. A lot of people from Milwaukee are working out in Waukesha. We have to look at how we handle resources back and forth. As I always say, 124th Street is just a street, it’s not a wall,” Farrow says.

The biggest source of friction in the Waukesha County race seems to center on Farrow’s willingness to forego his state Senate position, and only days after winning it. He admits he would be giving up political power at the state level – he has been the Senate’s assistant majority leader. But Farrow says he couldn’t resist the chance of becoming Waukesha County’s chief leader.

“We don’t get to make the timeline of when opportunities happen. County Executive Vrakas came to me after the election was over and asked me to consider it. It was his timeline. It was his decision,” Farrow says.

“I was surprised to see he was going to run after being re-elected in November and making a commitment to his district, saying he’s our guy in Madison.”

That’s Farrow’s opponent, Waukesha County Board Supervisor Thomas Schellinger.

“He campaigned all fall telling us that and asking for donations and help. Then, ten days after being elected he changes his mind,” Schellinger says.

Schellinger also accuses Farrow of trying to milk as much taxpayer money as he can, effectively drawing two government paychecks if he’s elected Waukesha county executive. Farrow has said he won’t resign his Senate seat until after Gov. Walker signs the state budget this summer.

Schellinger has served on the county board since 2006 and sits on its personnel committee. He believes his knowledge of the inner workings of county government make him the better candidate.

“Because of my experience working on the budgets through the last nine years, working with the department heads, knowing my colleagues on the county board,” Schellinger says.

Schellinger says if elected, his priorities would be fostering job growth and holding the line on taxes. He says he also wants to get residents more involved in the budget process.

“I would like to for the first year, hold listening sessions throughout the county so citizens can address what they feel their needs should be in the budget,” Schellinger says.

Schellinger describes the race as low key; there haven’t been any debates or public forums. Both hopefuls have been putting up yard signs and knocking on doors in an effort to win votes.

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